So what’s hot in Sandwichland today? Food and Wine says it’s the banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich served on a bun with a light, crunchy crust that comes from using rice flour. True, it’s only on 2% of the country’s menus, but it’s climbing fast, they say.
Also on the rise is the torta, aka “Mexican submarine,” and the Middle Eastern shawarma made with thin, shredded meat, veggies and sauce on pita bread. No need to shed tears for the Cuban sandwich yet, but studies show that it’s waning in popularity. Same for the good ol’ club sandwich, chicken salad, and Reuben.
The Classics Get a New Twist
Today sandwiches are an art form splendid enough to make the 4th Earl of Sandwich proud of his culinary contribution. (The Earl was the guy who devised the tactic of putting meat between slabs of bread.)
All of us have our childhood favorites. Mine wasn’t peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese. It was something called Taylor’s Ham, an East Coast delicacy sliced from a roll of uncooked meat, that looked much like pink salami. Since it didn’t meet the standards for “ham,” the name was technically changed to pork roll, but we always used the traditional name.
Thin slices were fried after first cutting the edges so the meat stayed flat in the skillet until it cooked crispy. Slapped betwixt two slices of Wonder Bread and smeared with ketchup, it was good lunchtime eating, when paired with a bowl of Campbell’s soup and a glass of milk.
Today Taylor’s Ham is considered the unofficial state sandwich of New Jersey when served on a hard roll with an egg and cheese. Agggh! Simplicity lost.
My Favorites Today
My sandwich preferences have gotten more sophisticated since childhood. The tuna salad that once called for just a dab of mayo, relish, and celery, I now gentrify with fresh lemon juice, Dijon, and fish sauce. I also enjoy an occasional BLT, but only during the summer when tomatoes are fresh and flavorful.
Today there are some sandwiches being sold in St. Louis that would rival Dagwood’s creations in height and content. Taste enhancers include such things as tomato jam, goat cheese, chutney, caramelized onions, pickled carrots and onions or sauteed mushrooms. No doubt about it, sandwich flavors have come a long way since the Earl ate salted beef between slices of toasted bread.
The Jelly Bread Sandwich
Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts fame had a lot to say about the therapeutic value of a sandwich. Well, not just any ol’ sandwich. When Charlie Brown shows up at her psychiatric booth saying he feels hopeless, Lucy advises: “Go home and eat a jelly-bread sandwich folded over. Five cents, please.”
According to Lucy, the reason for folding rather than cutting a sandwich is to prevent the flavor from falling out. Hmm. . . . she may be onto something there.